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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

miREE: miRNA recognition elements ensemble

Paula H Reyes-Herrera*, Elisa Ficarra, Andrea Acquaviva and Enrico Macii

Author Affiliations

Department of Control and Computer Engineering, Politecnico di Torino, Corso Duca degli Abruzzi 24, 10129 TO, Italy

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BMC Bioinformatics 2011, 12:454  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-12-454

Published: 24 November 2011

Abstract

Background

Computational methods for microRNA target prediction are a fundamental step to understand the miRNA role in gene regulation, a key process in molecular biology. In this paper we present miREE, a novel microRNA target prediction tool. miREE is an ensemble of two parts entailing complementary but integrated roles in the prediction. The Ab-Initio module leverages upon a genetic algorithmic approach to generate a set of candidate sites on the basis of their microRNA-mRNA duplex stability properties. Then, a Support Vector Machine (SVM) learning module evaluates the impact of microRNA recognition elements on the target gene. As a result the prediction takes into account information regarding both miRNA-target structural stability and accessibility.

Results

The proposed method significantly improves the state-of-the-art prediction tools in terms of accuracy with a better balance between specificity and sensitivity, as demonstrated by the experiments conducted on several large datasets across different species. miREE achieves this result by tackling two of the main challenges of current prediction tools: (1) The reduced number of false positives for the Ab-Initio part thanks to the integration of a machine learning module (2) the specificity of the machine learning part, obtained through an innovative technique for rich and representative negative records generation. The validation was conducted on experimental datasets where the miRNA:mRNA interactions had been obtained through (1) direct validation where even the binding site is provided, or through (2) indirect validation, based on gene expression variations obtained from high-throughput experiments where the specific interaction is not validated in detail and consequently the specific binding site is not provided.

Conclusions

The coupling of two parts: a sensitive Ab-Initio module and a selective machine learning part capable of recognizing the false positives, leads to an improved balance between sensitivity and specificity. miREE obtains a reasonable trade-off between filtering false positives and identifying targets. miREE tool is available online at http://didattica-online.polito.it/eda/miREE/ webcite